Diversity office launches required training to lessen bias in faculty searches

A faculty search committee has the difficult task of finding and agreeing upon the ideal candidate for a job opening, which can be tricky, given that everyone has his or her own opinions on what exactly constitutes “ideal.” Enter: The Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity’s new training program, “Interrupting Bias in the Faculty Search Process.”

“Everyone has bias—what I call unexamined or unconscious bias—where you just prefer certain things. Everyone does,” said Tenille Kaus, manager of faculty diversity and development. “But this course is about learning how to examine that bias so it won’t interfere with the faculty hiring process.”

As a federal requirement, all members of faculty search committees now must take a 90-minute training session once every two years. Group sessions often include faculty members from across campus or within a specific department, Kaus said.

During the interactive session, faculty members discuss research on bias in faculty searches and examine key concepts. Additionally, they are taught best practices, such as continually recruiting prospective faculty members, forming a search committee with diverse individuals and promoting an inclusive community in the workplace, Kaus said.

“The university and we as faculty are striving to create a diverse environment, and the only way we can achieve that goal is to recruit faculty who come from diverse backgrounds,” said Daniel Ornt, vice dean for education and academic affairs at the School of Medicine. “This new orientation program for faculty addresses this in a very open way, getting all of us to discuss our own personal biases that we might not have considered if we hadn’t been engaged in this program.”

Ornt, who will start a new faculty search this month, has no doubt the program will help he and his colleagues as they begin to look for candidates.

So far, about 35 individuals have taken part in the program, which launched July 1. However, Kaus estimates that about 200 or 250 faculty members serve on committees, and all will be required to complete the training before their next search launches.

Training sessions are now scheduled through December, with more being added to the calendar as the year progresses. The next sessions will be held Aug. 9. For more information, go online.